DFA responds to columnist on ‘overpriced’ OFW evac ship rental
SAN FRANCISCO – A spokesperson for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs sent a response to INQUIRER.net columnist Rodel Rodis (Global Networking), whose Aug. 13 column questioned the cost of evacuating 766 OFWs from strife-torn Libya to safety in Malta (“Questionable $1.8M rent of ship to evac 766 OFWs from Libya”).
Rodis questioned why the government paid so much when a different shipping company could have done the job at the cost of only “Lumpsum Euros 345,000” (quote from Virtu Ferries Ltd.). The price quote was sent by Virtu Ferries to Mr. Kevin Attard in Malta.
Attard had reportedly been requested by outgoing Ambassador to Rome, Virgilio Reyes, to help the Philippine government find an evacuation ship. Attard stated that his search led him to Virtu Ferries’ offer, but that he never heard back from Philippine diplomatic officials. The next thing he knew, he said, the OFWs had been evacuated to Malta on a ship that was rented for $1.8 million.
Below is the letter to Rodis signed by DFA spokesman Charles C. Jose:
17 August 2015
Dear Mr. Rodis,
With regard to your recent article on the evacuation of Filipinos from Libya via Malta, I wish to inform you of the following:
- With the worsening condition in Libya in 2014, the Philippine Government undertook an urgent and mandatory evacuation procedure of our countrymen from that country, utilizing the safest land, air and sea routes.
- In deciding on the possible vessels for the sea route (Malta), primary considerations included, among others, registered vessels that could undertake multiple load stops in Libya (to secure as many Filipino as possible in one voyage), with sufficient capacity level and previous experience in evacuating people from war-torn/crisis situations.
- The entire evacuation procedure was coordinated through our relevant embassies and Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) in various cities in Libya, Greece, Tunisia and Malta. Consul General Lora-Santos formed part of that team as Head of RRT-Malta. She liaised with Maltese authorities and the International Transport Workers’ Federation to seek advice on who could assist the Philippine government in procuring the immediate services of a vessel to ferry our countrymen from Libya to Malta.
- The Maltese government provided much valued assistance to the Philippine government by allowing the Filipino evacuees to enter Malta without visa formalities and providing well-coordinated air repatriation of the Filipinos through its airport.
It is to be noted that, at the time of evacuation, there was no Philippine Honorary Consul/Consulate in Malta. Mr. Kevin Attard was never the Philippine Honorary Consul to Malta, not even when Malta was under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli.
I hope to have provided you important information on the matter.
CHARLES C. JOSE
Spokesperson Department of Foreign Affairs
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